Mary Anning and the History of a Tongue Twister

By June 13, 2017Culture

Tongue Twisters are great, such fun as you try to bend your tongue around difficult rhymes and verses. Possibly one of the most famous tongue twisters of all time is about a woman who sells sea shells and it’s likely you’ve heard it, but you might not know that the ‘She’ in the tongue twister was a real woman, and she changed the face of science forever!

The original rhyme was written in 1908 by Terry Sullivan and it goes like this (do it out loud for extra fun!):

She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

The original ‘she’ was in fact a real person, Mary Anning who was born on 21st May 1799 in Lyme Regis in Dorset, a place now known as the Jurassic Coast for its abundance of fossils. Anning was the first of 10 children who would grow up in abject poverty and received scant education.

During this time it was popular to collect shells and fossils and wealthy families would display these in cases in their homes, often brought from abroad. Known for its unusual fossils, Lyme Regis was a popular place to collect these curios and Anning’s family regularly collected fossils from the beach to make more money for the family.

To put the events into perspective, it would take until 1809 before Darwin joined our mortal coil and quite a bit longer before he started working on evolutionary theories, so these curios were just that, curious items with little understanding.

By the last 1820s, Anning had quite the reputation for fossil hunter. In 1823 she found her first complete Plesiosaurus and in 1828 her ptesosaurs, the first discovered flying dinosaur was displayed at the British museum. At this stage, Anning was in her 20s and was building fair knowledge in the items she was retrieving from the coast. Her knowledge on the genus of each skeleton she discovered was unparalleled and aged 27 had accrued enough knowledge and money to open a glass fronted shop, Anning’s Fossil Depot.

As a working class woman, Anning was considered to be an outsider in the scientific community, born in a time when women could not vote, hold office, and rarely worked in the science field, the credit for much of her knowledge and many of her accomplishments were taken by scientists, but there’s no denying with what we know today that Mary Anning was one of the foremothers of palaeontology and is credited with discovering the first Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaurus, fossil fish, pterosaur, and many invertebrates and trace fossils.

So the next time you hear ‘She sells seashells on the seashore’, remember that ‘she’ was quite a mighty woman who moved the scientific look at fossils along in leaps and bounds. Oh, and she was a religious dissenter!

If you’d like to know more about Mary Anning, we have some recommended reads for all ages below.

Unintentional Innuendo Found In Innocent Books

By | Children's Literature, Literature | No Comments
A while back we showed you 20 Unintentional Innuendo Book Titles to make you giggle and guffaw, and they proved to be a huge hit.

After much perusing of the web we have found a fresh collection of unintentional innuendo found in books… This time within the text itself. They are absolutely innocent children’s books, however grown ups do have the habit of discovering innuendo where there should be none.

Prepare to be slightly disgusted at both the innuendo, and at yourself for laughing.

Read More

How To Make The Most Of Unloved Cookery Books

By | Arty, Inspired by Literature | No Comments
Nearly everyone has them: those cookery books that never get used. Sometimes we receive a recipe book from a well-meaning relative, or purchase one because our Great British Bake-Off obsession got the better of us… However those poor lost books usually get one flick through, some empty promises of bakes-to-come, and then nothing but dust and grease from sitting on a kitchen shelf.

The clever people at Tastemade have come up with a video how-to to show us the best way to utilise those cookery books we always meant to use. I am on the fence about this idea- it seems clever enough but… I am not sure.

See for yourself below and let us know what you think!

Read More

Amazon Launch ‘A Christmas Carol’ Short Story Competition

By | Competitions and Giveaways, Literary Events, News, On Writing | No Comments
Calling all writers, particularly those of short stories. Amazon has launched a Christmas writing competition, open to all adult UK residents, in search of a modern reimagining of Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’. The winner will receive a £2,000 Amazon gift card, and see their story published in time for Christmas! Read More

Word of the Day – Abreption

By | Word of the Day | No Comments

Abreption (noun) (rare)

a-brep-shun

To snatch something away, an instance of complete separation and removal.

Mid 16th century. From post-classical Latin abreption-, abreptio action of snatching away (636 in Isidore; also in an undated inscription) from classical Latin abrept-, past participial stem of abripere + -iō.

Read More

Phillip Pullman Explains His Influences and Inspiration

By | Literature, On Writing | No Comments
Phillip Pullman’s new addition to the His Dark Materials series comes not a moment too soon for fans of his writing. The first book in the newest trilogy The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, was due for release on the 19th of October 2017 but had an accidental early release 15 days before its due date. 

Pullman described the book as not a prequel, but an equel. A series not to stand before or after the novels that concluded in 2005, but ones that will stand beside them. The stories follow “the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organisation, which wants to stifle speculation and enquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free”.

Pullman spoke to the media about his inspiration behind his well-loved stories, and what has influenced his writing and characters over the years.

Read More



Leave a Reply